A happy dog in the sun

Many people who love trivia may be stumped by the phrase inspiratory paroxysmal respiration. We can easily infer that this phenomenon has something to do with breathing, and maybe some kind of spasm, but otherwise the general public might be stumped by the meaning of this one. 

Inspiratory paroxysmal is, in fact, the medical term for a reverse sneeze, a common occurrence in some pets. But what exactly is it and how do you know if your pet’s okay?

Can They Breath?

Quite possibly the biggest concern for pet owners standing idly by during a reverse sneeze is whether or not their pet can still breath. After all, they’re making a super loud honking, wheezing sort of noise that does not sound good at all. 

Most of the time, episodes pass and pets are just fine. But in the moments before they shake it off, the reverse sneeze can be downright scary.

What’s the Difference?

When your pet sneezes regularly they expel air out of the airways and through the nose. They may have inhaled something irritating or a foreign body is scratching the airway

A reverse sneeze is the result of quickly pulling air into the nose. A coarse, honking sound may accompany a stiffening of the body, hunched shoulders and an extended neck. A reverse sneeze may last for 15 seconds or so, but because of the fright it can feel like longer.

Not So Bad

The exact cause of the reverse sneeze is unknown, but we are aware of certain triggers. Allergens, foreign body irritants, insects, odors, and other substances can result in the tell-tale wheezing sounds. 

Brachycephalic breeds, like bulldogs, pugs and Persians are prone to this condition. When a pet is over excited about something, their normal breathing patterns may be compromised.  

What You Can Do

To interrupt a reverse sneeze, massage the throat from top to bottom to encourage them to swallow. Speak to your pet in a calm voice while lifting their head up to shift the soft palate. Try to open their mouth and press down on the tongue. Distract them with a treat or toys. 

When a Reverse Sneeze Is More

A single reverse sneeze or infrequent episodes may not necessarily be a cause for concern. However, repeated incidents should be addressed.

Certain medical conditions can cause this phenomenon. Respiratory problems, nasal tumors, polyps, tracheal collapse, infection or just plain allergies can explain repeated episodes. A foreign body lodged in the airway can trigger reverse sneezing. Diagnostic testing, such as X-rays or blood tests can reveal what’s going on.

If you have additional questions or concerns about your pet’s reverse sneeze, our veterinarians and staff members are always here for you at Androscoggin Animal Hospital